The Yankees and Mets will not play this weekend. Major League Baseball cancelled the series – you guessed it! – out of an “abundance of caution” earlier today. Obviously, this has a ton of ramifications for the Yankees. Let’s get into them, shall we?
1. Can’t Wash the Stink Away: The worst part about the postponement, aside from the fact that a Mets player and staffer have COVID, is that there’s no way to wash away the stink from that Rays series. Man was it horrible. It was one of those uniquely baseball series with every kind of loss. Add in the Rays factor and you get a recipe for aggravation and hot takes. We are all susceptible. What’s the point of all of this if you can’t be irrational from time to time?
But the best part of baseball, at least when things are normal, is that there is always, always, always another game the next night. It’s a chance to forget about the disaster and turn the page. Less time to dwell on the bad stuff, especially compared to some other sports. That’s obviously not the case now for the Yankees and this series. I’ll have more speculation on this below, but we’re waiting until at least Monday before the Yankees take the field again. The Rays, by contrast, will continue to play and may even build on their first-place lead. It’s unfortunate, but we’ll be all make it.
2. Fewer Shorthanded Games: There is a silver lining, though: the Yankees will now likely play fewer games shorthanded in 2020. It’s an unsafe assumption if ever there was one – Yankees just drop like flies these days – but humor me. The team is a walking hospital ward again right now and the extra few days off will help in that regard. The Yankees suddenly have a ton of cushion. Remember, the Yanks are not playing on Monday or Thursday, either. This helps out Aaron Judge, specifically, but everyone overall. The Yankees should be healthier in a few weeks.
Judge insisted his injury didn’t merit placement on the IL. I don’t know if I believe him, but all indications were that he’d be back on Saturday. Now, the Yankees will get to buy him a few extra days off his feet. It also means Judge won’t miss tonight’s game, which is another way of saying he’ll be active for a greater percentage of the Yankees’ games in 2020. (Doubly so if he needed more time.) Overall, that’s a net positive in my opinion.
It also buys Gleyber Torres, who has a “tight hamstring”, a few more days off. We don’t yet know the extent of that injury. Honestly, I’m sure it’s worse than they’re letting on – when has giving the benefit of the doubt worked with this team? – but there’s at least a chance Gleyber doesn’t miss any games now. That, too, is a net positive. Baby steps, everyone.
Update: 3:30 pm: The Yanks will place Gleyber on the 10-day IL with a “tight” hamstring. Sounds like he avoided a strain. The good news? Five of those 10 days are now considered off-days. They may have dodged a major bullet here. Plus, more games later means more games with Gleyber, DJLM, Judge, and Stanton in the lineup.
3. Projecting the Rotation: Here’s where things get interesting. The Yankees are not scheduled to play another game until Tuesday, when they travel to Atlanta for a two-game set. All of the Yankees’ starters will have a ton of rest going into that game. To wit:
- Gerrit Cole: last pitched Wednesday, 8/19
- Masahiro Tanaka: last pitched Tuesday, 8/18
- Jordan Montgomery: last pitched Monday, 8/17
- J.A. Happ: last pitched Sunday, 8/16
No matter the outcome – there’s a mutual off-day with the Mets on Monday, so there’s a chance for a double-header if all goes well – the Yankees are well-positioned here. They’ll get to use Gerrit Cole on regular rest no matter what and then use Tanaka and Montgomery after him. Those are the Yankees’ three best pitchers right now as James Paxton nurses a muscle injury. I doubt we see Paxton for a few weeks at this point, but even still, this buys him a bit more time, too.
The key thing here is that the Yanks get to use Cole again. He will absolutely, 100% start the Yankees next game, which will be the Yankees’ 26th of the season. It will be Cole’s 7th start, so he’ll have taken the ball in 27% of all Yankees games to that point. The Yanks will have their ace on the hill when they try to right the ship after this week’s disaster. That’s A-OK with me.
4. J.A. Happ’s Vesting Option: Speaking of, this series – and the Paxton injury itself – makes it a lot more difficult to limit Happ’s innings in the long-haul. It’s easier now, sure. But there will likely be a lot of doubleheaders ahead and very few scheduled off days. It’s tough to project anything at this point, when we’re all just a positive test away from a few games off, but at some point the Yankees will play a ton of games in not a ton of days. They’ll have to use Happ then.
Before the Paxton injury, it would have been simple to call up Clarke Schmidt to fill his spot and relegate Happ to the ‘pen. Not now. They may have to call up Schmidt anyway and still need Happ’s arm for innings at the back-end of the rotation. The Yankees should do everything they can to avoid using Green or Loaisiga as an opener with Kahnle and Britton out. Keep those guys where they belong, which is the bullpen.
Anyway, I sure would like to know about Happ’s vesting option! Remember, Happ is on an exempt list, one that was otherwise reserved for injured players. The two sides are renegotiating that vesting option now. Odds are it’ll go to an arbiter at the end of the year. It’s all very strange and I’m looking forward to finding out exactly what’s going on there.
I’m sure the Yankees want to limit Happ’s innings. The dude just isn’t very good right now anyway, so it’s not even manipulation per se. They have better options. And, besides, the fewer innings he throws, the less likely he is to meet whatever threshold the arbiter decides for the option after the season. This will make that more difficult in the future, as I’m sure there will be doubleheaders and fewer off-days ahead. They’ll need every arm they can get.
5. Bullpen Rest: The bullpen, too, is now going to be extremely rested going into Tuesday’s game. Here is the usage for the Yanks’ big arms since August 18, which will likely be a week before they take the field again:
- Chad Green: 0 (!) IP
- Aroldis Chapman: 0 IP
- Adam Ottavino: 0.2 IP (15 pitches)
- Jonathan Loaisiga: 1.2 IP (15 pitches)
- Jonathan Holder: 2.0 IP (29 pitches)
Those are the top 5 pitchers in the Yankees bullpen. They’ve thrown a combined 4.1 IP and 59 pitches since August 18. The Yankees love to rest relievers, and they should continue to do so. Plus, there’s no way to predict the COVID case on the Mets. It’s not like we knew this weekend off was coming, obviously. Still, I am just perplexed by this usage. The Yankees played 3 relatively close games against the Rays this week and Jonathan Holder threw nearly as many pitches (29) as Green, Chapman, Ottavino, and Loasiga combined (30). And don’t even get me started on Avilán’s usage yesterday.
Anyway, point is that the bullpen will be ready to go next week, so that’s good considering how short it is. Silver linings!
6. Russ Trade: Hey look, the Yankees made a trade:
The Yankees are getting Addison Russ from Philadelphia and giving up David Hale, who was DFA’d earlier in the week for Aroldis Chapman. I don’t know much about Russ, but the early read is that he’s an extremely Yankees pickup. He throws a 93-96 mph fastball that “tunnels well” with his 84-86 mph splitter, per Baseball America. Check it out:
Pretty nice, right? He also throws a slider, but he’s the fastball/splitter combo is rated as a plus by Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus). He’s been hurt a few times in his career, but was ranked the 20th-best prospect in the Philly system by Baseball America, which expected him to make his debut in 2020.
He should be a factor in the Yankees’ pen right away. Their track record with guys like this is extremely high. He’s a high-velocity, high-strikeout guy – nearly a 33% K rate in his pro-career – which suggests equally high spin rates. This is the type of guy the Yankees absolutely love. I’m excited to watch the 25-year-old, who is Rule 5 eligible after the season, get to work.
As for David Hale, I wish him nothing but the best. He was a bit underrated, pitching to a 2.98 ERA in 53.1 IP for the Yankees in his career. May he go help out our former friend in Joe Girardi.
7. Upcoming Schedule: What a mess this 2020 season is, huh? I have no idea how the Yankees and Mets will make these games up. There may be some Mets “home games” at Yankee Stadium. In any case, James Smyth has the breakdown of mutual off-days:
As always, we’ll need to see what happens with the Mets’ test results in the next few days. There are a ton of variables here. I guess we just gotta take this one day at a time. There’s other way forward, really.